A tragic end for a beloved director

By Josh Rottenberg
Updated August 24, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

If there was one quality that defined director Tony Scott, it was relentless drive. Scott’s hit movies, including Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, and True Romance, helped set the blueprint for the modern action blockbuster — high-octane and glossy, with knobs-cranked-to-11 pacing. Off screen as well, he was known for his endless energy and enthusiasm. When the news broke on Aug. 19 that the British-born filmmaker had jumped off a bridge in Los Angeles in an apparent suicide at age 68, the film industry was stunned. (Unconfirmed news stories soon emerged claiming Scott had a serious illness — but the coroner tells EW the director’s wife has denied this.) ”He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable,” Top Gun star Tom Cruise said in a statement. Scott’s friend and protégé, director Joe Carnahan, wrote on Twitter, ”Tony’s influence on a generation of filmmakers is colossal. There isn’t a more commercially successful director who pushed the form like him.” Scott cofounded a production company with his older brother, Ridley (Alien), that has created TV series such as Numb3rs and The Good Wife, and over the years he earned the loyalty of actors like Denzel Washington, who starred in five of his films. ”There’s a comfort zone” collaborating with Scott, Washington told EW in 2007. ”[Making movies] is too hard, and takes too much time, for it not to be a creative joy.” To watch Scott work, as EW did on the set of Domino in 2005 — charging around in his running shoes, shouting, ”Now we’re cooking!” — was to witness creative joy in action.

The Essential Tony Scott
A look at some of the unclassifiable director’s most enduring films

Top Gun (1986) This blockbuster, starring Tom Cruise as an ace fighter pilot, launched the actor to superstardom.

Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) Scott scored his second hit with Eddie Murphy’s action-comedy sequel, which earned $153.7 million.

True Romance (1993) With a script by Quentin Tarantino, the bloody and darkly comic crime movie earned Scott critical raves.

Crimson Tide (1995) Scott showed off his talent for generating suspense in this thriller about a clash between two strong-willed officers on a nuclear sub.

Man on Fire (2004) Scott’s violent revenge actioner starred Denzel Washington as a former CIA operative who’s trying to rescue a kidnapped 9-year-old (Dakota Fanning).

Unstoppable (2010) In his final movie (and fifth starring Washington), Scott brought his visual panache to the story of two men attempting to stop a runaway freight train.